Thursday, November 19, 2015

How to Measure the Agility of an Organization

Focused on the degree of measurement to which an organization encourages an agile mindset.

Agility is important, organizations even have to become agiler than needed at the moment, because changes come faster and faster. But how do you measure the agility of an organization? What indicators do you need to consider that would help you with in-depth understanding where you are and where you are going to? What are the contributing factors that make you want to seek a measure of agility individually? And how would you interpret your agility score? Does 80% agility mean the organization responds to changes 80% of the time, deliver features to market 80% of the time etc? Usually, it doesn't. What other improvement programs are in effect at the organization that makes you want to single out the agile wins apart from others? Why do you feel this matters?

Agile values and principles are the best measures by themselves.Values and Principles are about what we believe and how we think. Neither of these is really amenable to direct measurement. And you will always have to tie these together to get the big picture of your organizational agility. Early and continuous delivery of working software can't be achieved without delivering working software and welcoming changing requirements even late. To get these principles right, highly motivated team and continuous attention to technical excellence are essential. And for this, teams should reflect at regular intervals to bring in continuous improvement. So when you connect the values and principles, that itself is a measure by itself and ultimately the real measure is working software. Agility can be achieved by understanding organizational needs by developing products fit for the purpose having both utility and warranty using resources effectively. However, this is often where organizations have difficulty juggling to keep everything in order. How quickly and how well do you respond to the market?" - "How valuable is the work you do?" - "How do our customers accept the features?", all of which are at best indirectly related to agility.

Focused on the degree to which an organization encourages an agile mindset - so the pertinent question to answer is "How agile are we?" Given that agility is largely about human relationships based on Agile Manifesto and Agile Principles, then it should be practical to prepare and administer a relevant questionnaire. Moreover, other Agile values and principles such as culture need to be measured as well. Culture is the number one barrier to an Agile transformation. So, measuring it although tough, is rather crucial and necessary. For example, some Agile organizations support and encourage the idea of highlighting "mistakes" by those who made them and actually in some ways rewarding those team members. This, in turn, reduces risks and promotes feedback, learning, and transparency.

It is practical to measure, whether you are getting what you want to get out of being agile. In agile, measure directly what you want to achieve, what your organizational goals are like go to the market time, cycle time to develop a feature, anything that you truly want to see results from. Some of the key measures of Agile effectiveness are Creating Value, Timely delivery, Teamwork and Productivity for the work done. By benchmark and comparison within the organization groups and their characteristics over a period of time may be the way to go. Organizational characteristics such as trust, collective engagement, teamwork, adaptability, integration, etc. do not directly tell you how much the defect rate has gone down, or what is the change in ROI. However, many organizations still want to measure organizational agility somehow by indicators that help you instigate agile values and principles.

The improvement of organization agility enhance the value of teams: Learning or improving agile practices does not enhance the value of the product. It enhances the value of the team creating the product. From a customer perspective, that's a world of a difference. For a transformation model, organizations would also need leadership, structure, people, etc. that would give you the mapping to those values and principles. And, then, wouldn't you want to ask, for example, how much has leadership grasped on the Agile mindset? What strategy/steps... should they take in order to improve Communication and Collaboration.

The great effect of organization visibility and motivation will be multiplied and magnified by the continuous training people. The better people are trained, the greater the results will be. Organization visibility can be measured by the technology and procedures a company uses to collect, use, and display information. Team/People motivation can be measured by the incentives and authority people are given to make decisions and act to timely achieve organization objectives. People training builds skills for using visibility, for making right decisions, and acting effectively to achieve objectives. So training should be measured as well.

One way is to measure the outcome or delivered business value. First organizations need to transform into an agile mindset which leads to Agile behaviors, and such as much as you can measure behavior then attempts to do so may provide you with some type of metric that provides insight into the desired outcome when moving to Agile. In this endeavor, you would want to inject certain Agile principles in some systematic way. Let's step out of an organization already being Agile, and think of one that wants to move into that direction. You would want to create a cohesive agile culture, etc. However, you want to do this in a way that you can inspect and assess where you are at a given point of transformation. The improvements for a better outcome may take time. It is still important to know whether the practices are effective and measurable.

Agility is the ability to respond to changes, to change direction. It is not a goal in itself but needed for navigating impediments and moving targets. In a nutshell, we need an agile set of assessment criteria that based on the ecosystem of the organization which would give us a feel of where we are. Agility doesn't happen overnight. Work out what you want, and measure whether you're getting it. If you can get enough of what you want, in a changing environment, then you are as agile as you need to be in that environment.


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